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Dynamic Vocabulary Development in a Foreign Language

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Yongyan Zheng

The Dynamic Systems Theory perspective offers new lenses to probe into long-term foreign language development. This book reports on findings of a longitudinal multiple-case study on the vocabulary development of eight university-level Chinese learners of English. Framed within the Dynamic Systems framework, the study assumes a holistic perspective towards vocabulary knowledge and aims to project a comprehensive picture of vocabulary development in a typical foreign language learning setting such as the Chinese context. To this end, a wide array of quantitative measurements and qualitative methods was employed. In-depth examination was given to both psycholinguistic and sociocultural processes involved in the complex and dynamic development of vocabulary knowledge. Efforts were also made to establish meaningful links between the learners’ cognitive, mental, pedagogical and social contexts. Although the focus is on vocabulary development, what is discussed in the book is applicable to a wide range of topics in foreign language learning and development.

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7 Situated Vocabulary Learning Experiences 163

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7 Situated Vocabulary Learning Experiences So far, we have seen that the participants’ macro-level and micro-level vocabulary developments were characterized by asynchrony, fluctua- tion and variation. This chapter attempts to understand these issues by probing into the participants’ situated L2 (English) vocabulary learn- ing experiences in the contemporary Chinese context. These experi- ences are discussed in relation to their L2 learning motivation from the perspective of possible self-guides. I will first describe the partici- pants’ vocabulary learning within the specific pedagogical context, in which impacts from the teacher and the curriculum are highlighted. Then the participants’ learning experiences within the broader soci- ocultural context in China are depicted. Some key points are further discussed at the end of the chapter, followed by a brief summary. Given that the participants’ accounts of their experience do not bear a direct relationship with cross-linguistic influence on word knowledge, only the English translations are provided when excerpts from the interview data are quoted and discussed. 7.1 Learning experiences within the pedagogical context As all the participants learned English as a foreign language primarily through classroom instruction, this section intends to provide some detailed information on the participants’ vocabulary learning within their pedagogical contexts, including the curriculum system at a more general level, and classroom instruction, classroom interaction, as- sessment requirements, and their extra-curricular contextual exposure at a more specific level. 164 7.1.1 Curriculum context All the eight participants were engaged in an English major program in a key comprehensive university in Shanghai, China. The...

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